Indiana warns counties of bogus voting applications
By MIKE SMITH
AP Political Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The International Brotherhood of Teamsters sent out more than 10,000 absentee voting applications to its Indiana members on forms that state officials say do not comply with state law, a union spokesman said Thursday.
Union press secretary Galen Munroe said a person from one of its vendors got permission from someone at the Indiana Election Division to recreate the application forms and distribute them. But Pam Potesta, co-director of the Election Division, said nobody in the agency said they gave such permission.
The forms had the address of the Election Division as the place to send the applications to receive an absentee ballot by mail. Division officials said they had received between 30 to 40 such forms in recent days and forwarded them to election boards in the counties where the voters live. The county boards are in charge of processing them.
State officials said Thursday that the forms can be sent to either the state or counties, but when the state receives them, it forwards them to the counties.
Secretary of State Todd Rokita and the Election Division sent a memo to election officials in all counties showing them an example of one of the unauthorized forms and citing a code in state law saying they should be rejected.
The memo urged county officials to contact people who had submitted such a form and tell them they must submit a properly approved form. It said besides approved forms available in the county election offices, they could refer people to the Web site www.in.gov/sos/elections.
It is common for state parties or candidates to send out absentee voter applications to people, and they can be on smaller forms such as the ones sent by the Teamsters. But Potesta said they must be approved by the Indiana Election Commission and have all the information on the two official state forms it has authorized.
Potesta said the forms the Teamsters said they had sent out were not approved and did not include such things as the state seal, revision dates and code citations.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker asked Rokita to investigate the matter Wednesday after receiving reports that St. Joseph County had received some questionable applications. He said one red flag was that the form said it should be sent to the Election Division, when it should actually be sent to the local county election board.
State officials said Thursday the forms could be sent to either place.
Parker said he was concerned that some people would send in the false applications, never receive an absentee ballot and be unable to vote on Election Day Nov. 4.
The deadline for county election boards to receive absentee voting applications is by the end of their business day Monday if the forms are mailed or delivered in person, said Leslie Barnes, the Election Division's Democratic co-counsel. People have until midnight Monday to fax the forms.
She said it would not be a good idea to mail forms to the Election Division at this point, because they might not be forwarded to the county office in time.
It was unclear why the election division received only 30 to 40 of the unauthorized forms when the Teamsters said it distributed them to more than 10,000 Indiana members. State officials suggested that some people might have sent them to the county offices instead, or realized they were not official.
Rita Glenn, the St. Joseph County clerk, said earlier this week that she had received six of the forms and questioned their validity.
The South Bend Tribune reported Thursday that it had contacted two people who mailed in the forms, and they said they thought they originated from the Teamsters.
Clarence Eichorst of South Bend told the newspaper he received the form in the mail. Ann Selesky of South Bend, whose husband, Ralph, mailed in an invalid form, said the mailing had the Teamsters name on it. Both men are members of the Teamsters.
Munroe, the Teamsters spokesman, confirmed that those two forms were sent by the Teamsters, and said more than 10,000 others were distributed in Indiana.
Munroe said he thought the Teamsters had done their due diligence to ensure the forms were valid. He said the mailer was an effort to get their members excited about voting. Knowingly sending out bogus forms would not make sense, he said, because it could disenfranchise the union's own members.
He said the forms were created under the impression that they were done so with state permission.
"We feel that if our members are being disenfranchised, it is by the state," he said.
He said the union planned to call all its Indiana members and tell them to use a state-approved form.
Munroe said the union "did similar work" with mailers in Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio and Washington and had not heard of any problems in those states.